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Saturday, November 04, 2006 

An eye for an eye.

In the trailer for Sacha Baron Cohen's film based around his Borat character, Cohen's alter-ego begs that people go see his movie, otherwise he will be "execute." While Borat advertises his Kazakhstani hertiage at every turn, he could just as easily be from Iraq, the basis of his act being the exposing of the ignorance and bigotry of his victims.

Meanwhile, in Iraq itself, another notorious and sadly not fictional character awaits his very own real execution. It's expected that Saddam Hussein will tomorrow be sentenced to death for his ordering of the killing of 148 Shia men in Dujail, after an assassination attempt against him failed in 1982.

Even for those of us who are vehemently against the death penalty in all circumstances, it's incredibly difficult to come up with any good, let alone compelling reasons for why such a tyrant should be spared the hangman's noose. Previously, the best argument for why Saddam's life should be saved was that imprisonment for the rest of his life would mean him having to suffer the humiliation of seeing a free, democratic and prosperous Iraq emerge from out of the blood-soaked ruins of his reign. That argument now seems laughable, as almost 50 bodies seem to turn up daily in Baghdad showing signs of torture.

The main opposition to a quick end to Saddam's life is now his defence lawyers, and some who are concerned that his death will lead to a further upsurge in violence from the Sunni community, whose home in the Anbar province is already the most restless in the country. Such claims are rather hollow, as while there is no chance that Saddam's impending doom will help unite the country as once hoped, it seems equally unlikely that the level of violence could honestly get much worse, unless there was a total uprising from those who still hold some allegiance either to Saddam himself or the Ba'athist regime.

The only remaining point to make then is the morally relativist one. Will Saddam's death honestly help the Iraqi people move on? Will it stop the violence? Will it solve anything? Or will it rather simply further enrage an already disenfranchised, seething community which has seen its privileges evaporate? Will it mark the new Iraqi regime as just as potentially bloodthirsty and believing in vengeance as Saddam himself was while in power? Will one execution mitigate for the deaths of hundreds of thousands? It won't, but as Iraq's new prime minister states that he hopes that Saddam gets what he deserves, it appears that the life of one of the 20th century's worst dictators is coming to a close.

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